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SOHO watches comet - Windows to the Universe

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SOHO's view of comet Kudo-Fujikawa.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy NASA

SOHO watches comet
News story originally written on January 31, 2003

On January 29, 2003 a comet passed very close to the Sun. The comet was too close to the Sun to be viewed from Earth; the bright light from the Sun blocked our view of the comet. However, the SOHO spacecraft, which observes the Sun continuously from an orbit 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, was able to capture images of the comet's close pass by the Sun. SOHO has an instrument called a coronagraph, which blocks out the brightest light from the Sun, allowing it a good view of the comet's closest approach.

Comet Kudo-Fujikawa (also called C/2002 X5) passed within 28.4 million kilometers (17.7 million miles) of the Sun. That was well inside the orbit of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. Mercury orbits at a distance of about 58 million kilometers from the Sun.

Several images from SOHO were combined to create this animation (820K GIF) of the comet passing the Sun; and this high resolution animation (3.7M GIF). These are large files, and may take a long time to download!

Last modified January 31, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF